Cutting It

What I really want to say is I needed our date not to end.

Five o’clock on a too-quiet Sunday afternoon in June. We stand on 16th Avenue East, Capitol Hill, Seattle. Green parking strips and small plots of grass front the darkened brick buildings between Republican and John. Lush front yards and large green trees grace the still-lit east side of the street. The sun in the west, spackling the Sound with silver flakes, has dipped below the tops of the buildings plunging them in shadow. I’m barely making my rent in one. My jobs as ESL teacher and chess magazine proofreader quail before the landlord’s hikes. I have $950 in the bank. There’s no one in the personal picture. I’m barely cutting it.

We linger in front of my building. I, balding, 39, from a small Washington town; she, rouged, 38, from Caracas, Venezuela. Our date is over. I could say we went to the Moroccan restaurant on 15th then for a walk in Volunteer Park. Or downtown to Pike Place Market and Ivar’s for fish and chips. I don’t recall. We force our words out in dribs and drabs sounding like Ionesco.

The last warmth of the dying afternoon fades on our bare arms. No car or cyclist passes. No child shouts to a playmate. No dog barks in play or challenge. Stasis grips the avenue like a vise.

We don’t know what to say. But we feel the same need. At a certain moment, we know we do. To hang out. To be together. To do whatever, or nothing, together. To have somebody to love.

That was thirty years ago. She is sitting across this round glass table under its yellow tablecloth now.

From Walla Walla, Washington, USA and currently living in Mexico City, Daniel Bailey is a semi-retired professor of English who’s spent half his life in Europe, Polynesia, Japan and Latin America. Narrative nonfiction, a short story, newspaper features and academic articles of his have appeared respectively in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Review, The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin and the Bulletin of Language Science and Humanities, University of Technology, Nagaoka, Japan.

See more of Daniel's work in 8.2